For the adoptive mom who feels hopeless, frustrated, or crazy


That, my friends, is eloquent talk for how frustrated I sometimes feel in this life as an adoptive mom. It’s exhausting, and I’m not talking about the usual parenting-is-tiring stuff, which all moms know can be plenty challenging, especially at certain stages of life.


Remember that movie “Groundhog Day,” where Bill Murray’s character repeats the same day over and over? Days with my kids often feel that way because it seems like we should’ve made more progress by now. It feels like nothing will ever change, and that makes me weary.

A feeling of isolation adds to the exhaustion when other people don’t “get it.”

Teachers and friends mean well but no one can understand a situation they don’t live and it’s unrealistic to expect them to. Ken gets it, of course, but it can be hard on a marriage to have kids’ behavior as the primary topic of conversation.

The kicker for me last week was a visit to a pediatrician who is clueless about adoption-related trauma. I went to discuss the possibility of trying a medication recommended by our therapist; I’m generally not in favor of that, but I wanted an intelligent pros-and-cons conversation in hopes of making an informed decision and knowing our options. Instead, he dismissed the whole thing and gave me cliche parenting advice like limit the use of electronics and offer incentives for good behavior. I tried hard not to roll my eyes, and on the inside I was thinking,

“Do you think I haven’t TRIED all that?!? Or that I’d even be ASKING about this if those things solved these problems?!?”

That conversation with the doctor made me feel straight-up CRAZY. Like maybe it’s not the early trauma and how that affects brain development. Maybe it’s not attachment disorder. Maybe prenatal drug use didn’t create any issues. Maybe it’s all me; maybe I’m just not cut out for this.

helpful tips for adoptive mom feeling hopeless

However, even on the crazy days when I leave the doctor’s office feeling like either crying or punching a wall, there’s Sane Jamie deep inside. The Jamie who reads and researches extensively, who has facilitated groups of adoptive parents, and who has some darn good life experience. That’s the Jamie with sound advice for the lost and frustrated adoptive parents — myself included.

Helpful tips for adoptive moms feeling frustrated, hopeless, or crazy:

1- Keep a journal.

Write down little details because you’re actually probably making progress it’s hard to see in the middle of things, and looking back over a year or so can help you find that progress.

2- Find a therapist with adoption/trauma experience.

We haven’t seen much change since our child started working with a therapist (somewhat recently), but I drive an hour to get to one with extensive experience with adoption issues and childhood trauma. Possibly the biggest benefit so far: she has helped me see it’s NOT just me.

3- Talk to a non-judgemental friend.

Preferably someone who has dealt with at least some similar issues. When possible, try to BE that friend to others, too.

4- Take care of your SELF.

Eat well, make time to exercise, schedule your own routine medical care (dentist, chiropractor, mammogram, etc.), and do things you enjoy (reading, creative hobbies, etc.).

5- Make date night a priority.

One day the kids will be grown, and it’d be a good idea to still like the person you spent all that time parenting with. Remember why you fell in love, and make sure conversations include hopes and dreams and laughs. If necessary, do date night at home after kids are in bed; there are ways to make it work.

6- Remember who YOU are outside of motherhood.

Before you became a parent, you were a whole person. Look for ways to get to know that woman again.

–> Above all, remind yourself of this: you are trying, day in and day out, and that counts for a lot.

*photos courtesy of